Photo: JGSDF LR-2 in Okadama STA.
NavyRecognition is reporting the Selex ES, a Finmeccanica company has developed an integrated sensor package to convert the KingAir 350ER (extended range) into a Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
This isn’t the first time this airfame has been used as a maritime patrol aircraft. It is used by several navies and coast guards including Japan and Malta. It is also used by the Argentine Navy, Ecuadorian Navy, and Indian Boarder Security. (A flight report on the civilian version is here.)
The Beech King Air is used by all four DOD armed forces under the designation C-12. including a new MC-12 ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) aircraft deployed to Afghanistan. It is also used by the FAA and by NOAA,
Perhaps most significantly, the type is also being used to recapitalize the Customs and Border Protection air fleet and includes an air to air intercept as well as maritime surface search radar capability.
In some respects, this might fill the void in the Coast Guard’s aviation program left by deferment of the land based UAV program. With performance similar to the HC-144, lower operating costs, and endurance of up to twelve hours, while it may not have the ultimate endurance of some UAVs, it has a greater useful load than all but the largest UAVs and consequently can carry more capable sensors, and would require no special dispensation, to function in the national airspace, as UAVs currently do.
Why not, use something that’s current, off the shelf, ready to go. A King Air 350ER, would make a perfect manned UAV/Maritime Patrol Aircraft/ISR. I can see the US Coast Guard, US Customs & Border Patrol use this as a manned UAV/Maritime Patrol Aircraft/ISR. It’s cost effective and very cheap to acquire and maintain as well. At the same time, you can hire a fleet of pilots who already know how to fly them, already fly them and give them a warrant officers commission to just simply fly them.
Certainly would be cost effective (for small coast guards) the aircraft has been used for several ISR missions successfully. Canada even leases the operation out to a company.
USCG may be wedded to current force structure by logistics and facilities?
BTW now that USAF is about to make a decision about C-27Js, you heard any rumors?
Haven’t heard anything recently, but there seemed to be a lot of Congressional pressure to keep the C-27J in the Air National Guard.
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More news on alternatives to UAVs that are smaller than C-144s:
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Further US development on the Beech 350: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130819/C4ISRNET08/308190007/EMARSS-Aircraft-Begin-Flight-Tests?odyssey=mod
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Good look at manned alternatives to UAVs here: http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2014/09/low-cost-manned-istar/
Army’s plan for use of the Beechcraft 350ER. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/show-daily/aaaa/2016/04/30/army-spy-plane-deploys-southcom-africom/83762984/
Progress on the Army’s use of the Beechcraft 350ER for ISR.